A Look Back At 2016...The Passing Of TMM And Other Thoughts From Last Year

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I haven't done a best of or in review for a little bit and it's not looking like it's happening this year - but maybe next year I'll try something new (or old) again.

We'll see...

Left Too Early

When I look back at 2016 - one of the moments that will always be remembered is the passing of Keon Enoy Munedouang aka TMM, The Minority Militant.

His memory. His posts. The way others remembered him.

It never went unnoticed to me what month it was either...

He'll be missed by many - and I'll miss him.

I'll miss what I had gotten to know as well as the promise of what could have been.

When I got back from his funeral - because I owed him that - I wanted to write something so visceral - I wanted to light everyone on fire who I didn't think cared and should have, either about TMM himself and the loss to the blogging community, or the fact that I was grieving his loss.

But I didn't.

I knew it wouldn't quite be right. I may have touched on things - but not in that way.

Here's some of what I did write though on a FB post:

...I found the Internet. I found writing from a journalistic, news, and op-ed point of view. I helped start an online press, one of the first independent student run ones in the country [...] I always went back and forth between wondering if I should do social work/arts for a living or something else that could fuel that. Tech and the Internet and the Web - they've allowed me to do that. It gave me the power to do things on my own without needing anyone else's approval, or wait while I stood in line for scraps hoping they would open up the gates for me, or have to explain to anyone that I couldn't do anything in life if I wasn't able to make a living and pay bills and that I could still be down even if I was also a tech geek too--it opened up a whole new world to me on so many fronts.

One of the areas that's been such a large piece of who I am is as an AAPI blogger and online writer. I was able to find my voice and who I was as a writer and activist. It's been a community that I'm proud to be a part of and contribute to and where I've been able to meet so many great people and organizations and learned so much because of it, and I hope that I'm always giving back because of that. We really are a different breed and small community spread out across the country, and while sometimes I ran from it, because we run from who we are sometimes, I stopped running at some point.

This weekend I drove down to Chicago to attend the funeral for Keon (aka TMM) who I've been making a lot of posts on for the last week. A fellow Southeast Asian American blogger from the Midwest I considered Keon a friend, but one who I should have gotten to know more, and who I lost touch with over the last few years. But I wanted to be there to help honor his life and the piece of him I knew as a part of a community that we both belonged to. It was great to see how much love there was for him. Sending him off in a traditional Lao ceremony and honoring his life--being a mentor, a teacher, serviceman to his country, brother, son, and cousin, and about his life as a political Asian American blogger--and his sister ended the ceremony with words from his blog and about why he wrote and why he felt he needed to put out his voice. It was fitting in that way and brought me to tears and while I wanted to say so much more to his sister before I left, it was really her just letting me cry on her shoulder before I just had to leave. One day I figure I'll learn how to be better at funerals...and make sure to honor those better.


There've been so many emotions running through this past week and some of them really angry...and I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with those as I felt like I should act on them and acknowledge them and use all the power in the English language to show them light....but I don't want to start wars and sometimes things are more complicated, and there's another POV - and it takes energy for that - energy that can be channeled, and I know better spent, on something positive for the community...and I've talked a lot to different people and there's been so much support in his memory and nothing but kindness and goodness and I'm thankful to all of them because that helped erase some of that anger.

Positivity and channeling something good out of this wins.

Rest in peace Keon. It truly has been an honor.

There really was an outpouring of love and respect for his blogging and life. On all sides. Even from people who maybe didn't get along with Keon, or didn't understand him or why he felt or said some of the things he did.

I'll always be grateful for that - for the showing of love and respect, and the community around his memory - the AAPI bloggers and writers and friends and family.

Because when someone leaves - and leaves us too early - we should see that.

From Lac Su With Love (Well Not Really But I'm Quoting Him Anyway)

Another moment that sticks out in my mind, and I think a more general one, is the fall of our Presidency. I mean really - who knew we would go back in time - like a rip in the universe and some odd machine that you only find in COD III.

Progressive woman from a party that cares about everyone, or a racist rich White Guy who duped other racist White People (well not everyone)?

We know how that turned out.

And those masks - they came off.

From all sides, everywhere you looked - "friendships" were broken, families were divided - and this thought of somehow being in a safer and better place (because we've had to be after all the advances we've made right?) - it felt like it was crashing down - and sure, we've been through bad Presidents before - but this was different.

I think there was true hope that we were on the cusp of something great - and we needed that because amidst so much other turmoil from a race perspective.

The fact that it was never realized gave way to true mourning for so many people and communities.

That mourning turned to anger with a fight response - that in spite of it all - we needed to stand strong no matter what.

I think Lac Su said it best (via a social media post) when he said we needed to fill the void after the election with art and community - and it's true.

Gotta fight because the alternative of laying down isn't an option.

Life goes on.

We still have to progress and move forward and push back as much as we can.

Police, Race, And The Divide

I live within walking distance to the governor's mansion (albeit in an adjacent neighborhood) which was ground zero during the protests surrounding the shooting of Philando Castile - and like too many other times, protested and chanted with others who were shocked and outraged at the shooting of another man of color, a Black man, who did nothing wrong. The community was on fire and the helicopters buzzed around me at night watching and waiting...it was another shooting, another bad cop who should have never been a police officer, another highway closed, another motion that said change needs to happen...

In one of the cities I call home where I grew up, Milwaukee's boiling point finally came. Another shooting. Too much built up, in what was once one of the most segregated cities in our country...

Peter Liang and Akai Gurley. How can we forget them? The divide was great in the Asian American community and I know I lost at least a couple of folks on that one - but I'll still remain with what I think is a balanced view on it because we have to take it all in - we can't throw away the concerns of so many - and I mean that on all sides. There has to be dialogue - it just can't be a debate...

And Map Kong - another shooting of a man of color - an Asian American man - ripped by the Star Tribune via their White Privilege, not given the justice he deserved. From the BCA to the police to so many communities - he was lost in the shuffle with barely a word spoken about him and how his life was worth rehabilitation - that he didn't need to be shot in the back running away - that if he was White he probably would have had a better chance surviving the officers that surrounded him...

I can only hope that 2017 doesn't see what we witnessed in 2016 on this front.

Maybe This Year Will Be Different

This year I watched my daughter grow up a little - baby Slanty turned into toddler Slanty - and when I look at her - I know that one day we'll see the fruition of labors.

Because it has to happen at some point and I can't believe that she'll be worse off than where we are now.

It's just organic change that's already in flux.

Maybe this year can be the start of something new - something different.

Even with the changes coming to our country and the melees that will ensue (because there has to be) - the majority - we know what needs to be done.

We know what it's going to take.

So here's to at least hoping for the best.